Solar energy and sheep make unlikely duo in poverty fight

China Minsheng Investment Group helped 70 percent of the poor population in Yanchi county in the Ningxia Hui autonomous region to boost their income by combining photovoltaic technology with agricultural production.

Dong Wenbiao, chairman of the investment group, said the company installed photovoltaic panels in the desert in Ningxia, where tens of thousands of villagers were once trapped in poverty.

"The panels cast a shadow on the areas below them, where grass began to grow," he said. "We then encouraged locals to take up sheep breeding. For those lacking necessary funds, we founded a bonding company to provide bank credit of up to 3 billion yuan ($436 million)."

In 2011, about 1,500 villagers moved into Beitang New village in Yanchi county where there was barely available farmland for migrants to make a living.

He Sancun, head of Beitang New Village, said ever since the development of sheep breeding, villagers can work at the sheep farm for a monthly income of 3,000 yuan.

China Minsheng Investment Group is an international private investment company, determined to integrate finance with such industries as new energy, eldercare, construction, industrialization and general aviation, according to its oficial website.

In 2014, the company cooperated with the Ningxia government to turn Yanchi county into the world's biggest independent photovoltaic power station. When completed in three to five years, the station will be able to generate total power of 2 gigawatts.

The first phase of construction was completed in June 2016 and can generate 350 megawatts of electricity.

Chairman Dong said power stations have been established in 74 villages in the county and each village can get 200,000 yuan every year.

A total of 1,870 families in the county have photovoltaic panels on the roofs of their homes.

Guo Xiuzhen, 68, a villager from Nanliang village in Yanchi county, said her family can earn 3,000 yuan every year from the 20 photovoltaic panels.

Dong said: "As a new private investment company, we expect to help to lift people out of poverty through a sustainable commercial model, not simply by donations. "